Until fairly recently Apple didn’t seem to have too much involvement in the world of sports. Traditional broadcasters showed the games and aside from a few Super Bowl halftime ads back in the 1980s, there wasn’t even the need for showcasing products at sports events or in sports broadcasts.
But that changed with the new deal, starting last year, to sponsor the entire Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL jettisoned Pepsi and Apple chose Rihanna to be the star of just about the most watched sports interval in the world. Apple is not stopping there though. More deals have already been brokered and there is involvement in MLB and MLS now. Is Apple going to take over sports too?
Major League Soccer
Although it is not the first move by Apple into sports, the Major League Soccer deal was noteworthy for a number of reasons. The company had moved away from acquiring a movie studio, suggesting that they saw the future in sports and sports broadcasting – and soccer was the first to really jump all in.
MLS is now exclusively an Apple thing, with all games available to stream on Apple TV+, alongside other related pre and post-game content. Where other broadcasters own parts of the schedule for other sports, Apple has the entire MLS output and has earned rave reviews for the work so far.
Major League Baseball
Soccer may be the world’s game but baseball is America’s pastime and Apple obviously saw the benefit of getting in on the MLB action too. Friday night baseball games were acquired for around $55 million and that is on top of the millions more spent on advertising. Apple obviously saw it as a good in with the league.
The baseball schedule, like other US sports, is parceled up around a whole host of other networks, so just taking a piece is probably a good idea. With so many games available, a primetime slot on a Friday night seems like good broadcasting business sense.
A Play for NFL
Football is still the biggest sport in the US though – and Apple has not been shy of attempting to get some deals done with the NFL. The deal for the Super Bowl halftime show apparently happened after the idea popped up during talks into deepening ties between Apple and the NFL.
Apple wanted a Sunday night package, but YouTube and Google eventually signed on the dotted line. Undeterred – and possibly put off by the reaction fans gave to having to pay for yet another broadcasting package – Apple went with soccer to show what they could do. The feeling may have been that if they do a good job there, the NFL will take notice and consider Apple next time the football negotiations come around.
The old days of the major networks showing live sports exclusively are long gone. As we have already mentioned, major league games across all the big pro sports are now divided up between a wide range of broadcasters and streaming services. The relatively new streaming services can sell their whole package around showing a particular sport or league, just like Sky Sports did with English soccer back in the 1990s.
These sports deals don’t come cheap. We are talking multi-billion dollar price tags for the most high-profile competitions and leagues. But that is seen as worth it by Apple and others.
The Future of Apple and Sports
Apple certainly does seem to look at sports as the future. New products are coming out with special sports tabs, as in the new iPhone, or sports fitness elements, as in the Vision Pro AR Headset. But streaming sports – and the subscriber money that brings is the obvious priority.
There will undoubtedly be a new play for NFL games – and the NBA deal will be coming up soon. That’s something that head of Services Eddie Cue will have a particular interest in. But the really big deal on the horizon could be the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Soccer’s biggest tournament will be held largely in the US – and what would be better than for Apple to have the rights?